Interview: RaeLynn Straddles the ‘Naughty’ and ‘Nice’ Lists on Personality-Packed New Holiday EP
Over at RaeLynn's house, the holiday season is in full swing.
During a recent Zoom interview, the singer popped up on camera in a festive red sweater and lipstick to match.
"It's like Whoville in my house," RaeLynn remarked, swiveling the camera around to show off her dazzling, tinsel-colored tree. She's always been a big Christmas fan, but she started decorating even earlier this year — two weeks before Thanksgiving, even — despite some mild protesting from her husband, Josh Davis.
"Josh was like, 'Really?' But I had to do it. It made me happy," the singer says without an ounce of regret in her voice.
There was no better year than 2020 to give in to the festivities of the season. Not only has RaeLynn spent an unexpectedly large amount of time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's also the year that she released her two-song Merry Christmas EP. That project features her oddball original "Jingle Bell Drunk," which she and her co-writers wrote after setting out to "create the most out-of-control Christmas song that we could think of," she explains.
That day, she was writing alongside Rocky Block, Ernest Keith Smith and Corey Crowder, the latter of whom also produced both songs on her newly released Merry Christmas EP. Not only is RaeLynn a friend to and fan of the songwriters she was working with, but when the four got to talking, they realized that they had some things in common when it came to spending the holidays with their families.
"They're all just a little bit dysfunctional, in the best way," she explains. "And the only way we could really get through the holidays is by, you know, slipping something in our drink — in a funny way! So we got the idea of "Jingle Bell Drunk," and that song was the funnest to create. We just did all these classic melodies, and piano, and it was just a really fun thing."
With lines including, "Mrs. Claus is drinking White Claws on the roof / Uncle Santa brought a batch of 100 proof," and, "Maybe after presents we can go and hit a back road / Say we're headed to the MAPCO / 'Cause we're out of tobacco," RaeLynn's original holiday song makes a case to land her on Santa's "Naughty" list.
But one of the hallmarks of her musical style is her knack for bringing a gritty, down-home attitude to one song and ethereal sweetness to the next. And on Merry Christmas, RaeLynn delivers that contrast between "Jingle Bell Drunk" and her rendition of "Silent Night," the second song on the holiday two-pack. Not only is "Silent Night" one of her favorite seasonal classics, but recording it offered her the chance to collaborate with some musicians that mean a lot to her.
"The band that's featuring on [the song], Garrison, is my cousins' folk band," she points out. "My cousins Leeland, Jack and Shelly, they're all brothers and sisters, and we've been singing together since we were kids.
"Growing up singing "Silent Night" with my family in church, I just knew that it was the perfect add-on to this EP. I wanted it to be a little naughty and a little nice. I knew that that was me," RaeLynn continues, adding that her version of "Silent Night" also incorporates her cousins' rootsier music style. "I told [Corey Crowder] I wanted it to sound very folk-y and singer-songwriter-y. It's really cool to hear that. I love to hear my voice in that space, because I don't get to do that space very often."
Another plot of uncharted territory that RaeLynn's venturing into this holiday season is acting, as the singer makes her screen debut with a role on the new Hallmark film, A Nashville Christmas Carol. While the singer's been on auditions and tried her hand at acting in music videos, her role in the Christmas movie marks her first real foyer onto the screen — but hopefully, she says, it won't be her last.
"It's definitely something I want to do in the future. I really enjoyed acting. I really enjoyed performing in a different capacity. It was just a blast," RaeLynn confirms. One additional perk of appearing in a Hallmark movie? It'll score her some serious points next time she gets to see her extended family, she adds with a laugh.
"I feel like it was my claim to fame with my mother-in-law! And all my family who were like, 'Oh my God, you're in a Hallmark movie!'" she jokes. "They were just pumped."
But like many of her fans, RaeLynn's still not sure when the next time she'll see her family in person will be. The singer explains that she and her husband are keeping an eye on COVID-19 protocols and waiting until the last minute to book any travel plans for Christmas.
"It's so weird right now, you know? I think honestly we're gonna make a game-time decision, [based on what] the world feels like," she says with a shrug. "I think we might go down to Texas and see my mom, hopefully. I miss her very much."